“You ready?” I asked Ogre.
“Yup,” she replied with a smile on her dirty face. “I only let myself have one drink this morning so I would be sober while I speak.” I could tell she was proud of herself.
“Great! Let’s go!”
We were driving over an hour to introduce some ladies to Sox Place. Ogre had been coming to Sox Place off-and-on for ten years. She is a train rider – a traveler – if this was 100 years ago, she’d be called a hobo – a train hopper. If you’ve never experienced train riders, then, well, let’s just say they are dirty. They usually have mud and soot on their skin to the point that you don’t know if they are tan or just dirty. They smell like a mixture of a boy’s high school locker room after football practice and the bottom of a bar’s dumpster after an especially wild Friday night. And they never wash their clothes because, according to them, the dirt is what is preventing the fabric from completely falling apart. Ogre was no different, and she knew it.
In addition to being a traveler, Ogre proclaims to be a Christian, and I have no reason to doubt her. Sure, she has a problem with alcohol and she swears more than a poorly made R-rated action movie. However, she is constantly trying to live in a way that pleases God, even though she knows she fails in many ways.
So, here we were, on an hour-plus car ride. Train riders may not be pretty to look at, but they have some of the best stories. One in particular stood out to me, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it:
Being a good Southern girl, one Sunday Ogre decided she wanted to step into a church to hear “the Word.” She sat in the back, with her Bible, ready to be fed. But before the sermon even began, a deacon, in all his suit-and-tie glory, came up to Ogre and asked her to leave because she was “too dirty.”
I’ve heard many-a sermon on accepting people in the church and many-a story about how people aren’t, but to hear such a blatant story of unacceptance blew my mind. I was angry. How dare this man – who represented a church, who was supposed to represent Christianity, and, in that way, me, and ultimately represented Christ – show such the opposite of a Christ-like love? I could begin to feel a hatred for this man, whom I had never met.
As that day – and the days after – wore on, Ogre’s story stayed with me. I soon realized (with a nudge from the Holy Spirit, I’m sure) that I had no right to hold a grudge against this man. We all, including me, have Ogres in our lives – those people we’d rather not have in our church. We may not verbally tell them to leave, but we wish they would. And we don’t do anything that would make them think otherwise. Even the disciples had their Ogres.
Think of the Samaritan woman from John 4. She, also, was a dirty woman. She was a Samaritan (think Mudblood), a woman (gasp!), and an adulterer (dirty sinner!). Three strikes of dirtiness. The disciples knew it and wondered why Jesus was even talking to such a woman (v 27). But we all know the end of the story. Because Jesus displayed such compassion toward this woman, the whole town came to him (v 28-30).
Who are the Ogres and Women at the Well in your life? Who are the ones that deserve to be shown Christ-like love even though it is the last thing you want to do?
The young adult with too many body modifications?
The homosexual couple that holds hands on the back pew?
The parents whose children need some discipline?
The teen who wears too-short skirts?
The middle-aged man who wears a three piece suit and thinks everyone else should too?
The little old lady who always complains about the music?
My Ogre is the guy who tells people to leave because they are too dirty. I want to say, “If you don’t show Christ’s love to others, then you don’t deserve to feel Christ’s love through me.”
But, of course, that’s not true. Everyone deserves Christ’s compassionate love. As with the woman at the well, such love may result in remarkable things for the Kingdom!